Wednesday, June 29, 2011

THE HOST movie (holding back the squees)

You've heard about this, right?

Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. Our world has been invaded by an unseen enemy. Humans become hosts for these invaders, their minds taken over while their bodies remain intact and continue their lives apparently unchanged. Most of humanity has succumbed. 
When Melanie, one of the few remaining "wild" humans, is captured, she is certain it is her end. Wanderer, the invading "soul" who has been given Melanie's body, was warned about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the glut of senses, the too-vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn't expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind. 
So if you haven't read this yet and are hung up because it's by the Twilight author, I highly recommend you give it a shot. The Host is its own thing with a slightly more adult feel to it (no proms or cafeteria scenes). It's got that classic emotional artistry that made Twilight famous but a much more otherworldly feel, fitting because its main character is an alien. If you've never read a benevolent invasion story (this was my first intro to the concept), you'll find this philosophically stimulating. But if you're all about car chases, near death experiences, and survival skills, there's plenty for you, as well. And, of course, if you loved the intense romantic drama in Twilight, you'll get swept up in Melanie/Jared/Wanderer's emotional upsets, too.

Why am I writing about a book that came out in 2008? Because it's gonna be a film, baby! Yes, I'm excited! You should be, too! The director of freaking GATTACA has written the script and is currently slated to direct, too. Filming will start early 2012 and we'll have this film in local theatres by March 29, 2013. So yeah, I'm excited. It's one of those books with such cinematic style you can't help but visualize the film while you're reading. So I almost feel like I've already seen the movie because I can picture a Soul extraction down to the last glowing white tendril.

If you haven't read The Host yet, you're lucky. I'd love to be reading it for the first time with only a year and nine months to wait for the film. That's how I came to the Twilight series and it's always nice to have a shorter wait. :)

Are you a fan?

p.s. If you haven't seen Gattaca, that's what Netflix is for, and that's your assignment this weekend.

p.p.s. Operation Awesome will have a Mystery Agent contest July 1st. It's a one-sentence pitch contest with entry limit 50. Your manuscript must be complete and our M.A. has specifically asked for these genres: (YA and MG: southern gothic, historical fiction, magical realism, science fiction, supernatural/ paranormal, ghost stories, humor, fantasy, thriller/ suspense, edgy YA, friendship MG)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Books I Have Not Read

Sigh. Such a long list, unfortunately, but I'm whittling away at it as best I can. 

In my physical TBR pile, here are the books in random order:

On Goodreads
In the beginning they were a group of nine. Nine aliens who left their home planet of Lorien when it fell under attack by the evil Mogadorian. Nine aliens who scattered on Earth. Nine aliens who look like ordinary teenagers living ordinary lives, but who have extraordinary, paranormal skills. Nine aliens who might be sitting next to you now. 

The Nine had to separate and go into hiding. The Mogadorian caught Number One in Malaysia, Number Two in England, and Number Three in Kenya. All of them were killed. John Smith, of Paradise, Ohio, is Number Four. He knows that he is next. 

I Am Number Four is the thrilling launch of a series about an exceptional group of teens as they struggle to outrun their past, discover their future—and live a normal life on Earth. 

On Goodreads

Nick's life as a CIA spy should be fulfilling, but it has only given him unhappiness, a wife who committed suicide, and two daughters who resent everything he has become. Now, stuck in the Amazon on the last mission of his career, he must track down Matheus Ferreira, a drug lord and terrorist the United States has tried to bring down for years. If he succeeds, he'll have the chance to start his life over again. Just when he's on the brink of catching Ferreira, he's framed for a murder that turns his world upside down. His only chance of survival lies in West Virginia, where Lilian Love, a woman from his past, owns the secluded Monarch Inn. He's safe, but not for long.

On Goodreads
In this long political thriller staged almost entirely around a hostage standoff, Flynn makes maximum use of his White House setting, and mixes in a spicy broth of brutal terrorists, heroic commandos and enough secret agent hijinks to keep the confrontation bubbling until its flag-raising end. The villains are led by Rafique Aziz, a notorious Arab terrorist whose band of thugs takes over the White House by finding a weak point in American politics: they pose as wealthy campaign contributors and are welcomed through the front door. President Robert Hayes manages to escape to his bunker moments before the bloodbath, but religious zealot Aziz takes almost 100 hostages, seals off the White House and begins making demands, of which large sums of cash are just the beginning. With the president incommunicado and weak-willed yet power hungry Vice President Sherman Baxter in charge, the Pentagon and the CIA resort to their secret weapon: commando extraordinaire Mitch Rapp. After sneaking into the bowels of the Executive Mansion through an air duct, Rapp steadily disrupts the terrorists' well-laid plans. He finally calls in reinforcements when Aziz begins drilling into the president's bunker.

On Goodreads
It's been three years since the devastating accident . . . three years since Mia walked out of Adam's life forever.

And then there are the amazing books by my CPs stacked up on my hard drive... 

I love the thought of always having something to read. 

What's on your TBR list or already waiting in your stack?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Back on the Horse

My semi-long absence from the blog comes with a reasonable explanation this time: I was in a car accident.

You can read about that on Operation Awesome where I'm boldly giving out writing tips while bed-ridden: In Terms of Pain.

I also had the opportunity to spend days just reading in bed, so I've posted an Afterglow Book Review: POSSESSION by Elana Johnson.

I hope to read several more books this month, as I've got a few ARCs!! and some critique partnering to catch up on.

The trickiest thing will probably be getting back on my writing horse. But I'm excited about it, too. Life is full of unexpected circumstances, and writing is really all about life. I'm hoping this experience, like all my experiences, will make me a more authentic writer.

How have you incorporated life into your writing lately?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Road to Eye-strain is Paved with Good Intentions


Go ahead. Ask me what's wrong.

Why, how nice of you to ask. (Okay, I'll stop doing that.) It's eye-strain. I seriously need to cut back on my hours in front of this bright, backlit screen. This is tough because I'm totally addicted to tumblr and twitter and facebook (and the news). I know, I need to suck it up and do what's best for my eyes. Turn. it. off.

Picture from this site

The truly tragic thing is that it's affected my reading time. By the evening hours, when it's finally quiet enough to critique for my partners, edit my own work, or read my latest favorite book, my eyes are already bugging out my head. And my response time for critiques and reviews has gotten. really. really. really. slow. As painfully slow as reading that last sentence probably was for you (if you observed every mid-sentence period).

So I'm faced with a dilemma, or rather, a choice. I can keep doing what I'm doing and go blind in the next decade. Or I can cut back on screen time and save it for my reading/writing pursuits which are my only real non-familial goals these days.

It's a no-brainer.

I know what I really want, and it's not a plethora of random tidbits from distant (though cherished) friends and the mass media. It's quality family time and quality writing time. This will require self-mastery.


But it's going to be tough, as all new habits are.

Have you ever struggled with a technology addiction (iPhone, video games, web-surfing)? Or if that's too personal, how do you keep a healthy balance in your life?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Villains - my notes from Jeff Savage and Gregg Luke

I really can't rank the awesomeness of each LDStorymakers Conference break-out session last month. It was all so amazing and mind-blowing. That said, this class on villains definitely would rank in the top three. It was team taught by...

Jeffrey S. Savage, also writes as J. Scott Savage

Gregg Luke
As always, my notes are a combination of direct Power Point dictation and my own insights during the note-taking process. If only you could see the animated villains decorating each page of the presentation!

I'll see what I can do about that...

Ah, there we go. Much better. Now we can begin. 

What makes a great villain?


A great villain sets in motion the very things they fear most. Darth Vader's fear becomes anger and hatred that destroy everything he feared he would lose. 

Gray villain: someone who does bad things, but isn't really evil. Like Bowler-hat guy on Meet the Robinsons.

Motives: must have a back story
Goals: always at odds with the hero's goal
Traits: need to feel genuine. Be careful about cliches. Have them do something a villain wouldn't normally do.

Why do we like heroes?
  • Distinguished by exceptional courage, nobility, and strength
  • Everday man who accomplishes something extraordinary
  • They make mistakes
  • They learn something
  • They're in it for others
  • Often reluctant
  • Coolness factor (a la Batman)
  • Special powers (not necessarily Super)
  • We want to be the hero
The Villain is Often the Hero Gone Wrong
  • Everyday man who desires extraordinary things, who wants control of everything
  • Won't admit mistakes
  • Is sure she knows everything
  • In it for himself
  • No reluctance
  • Coolness factor (a la Magneto)
  • Special powers (doesn't have to be Super)
  • We empathize but disagree with decisions
Shame is an enormous transformative factor. Shame can turn a bad guy into a good guy, or it can change a good guy into a bad guy, depending on how it's processed.

Your villain might think she's the hero.
-villains rarely hate themselves

Inserting a camera into your story:
How do the movies make us believe? 

-Actions tell all. If we see the man on screen kick a kitten into the road, we know for sure he's the bad guy. Or maybe he stands by and let's the kitten get hit (sins of omission). 

-Motives change actions, like a different color lens. Maybe the kitten was infected and heading straight for an orphanage for handouts. If the man hadn't kicked it into the road in front of that Mack truck, it would have killed all the children in the orphanage.

Consider the differences between three villains in one story: Voldemort, Snape, and Wormtail. Different goals and motives, different character traits, different levels of evil.

-Motives separate heroes from villains. Show motives in a subtle way.

What happens in the background?
What is it that makes the psychopath so frightening? Cool calmness, or glee in hurting others.

Looks and Dialogue 


  • How do looks act as a guide to the reader? Ursula is fat, Cruella Deville is skeleton-skinny. Evil witches have warts and big noses while wicked queens are often beautiful but with cold eyes. 
  • Not going with the stereotype. Always stretch the stereotype until it's unique to your story, like Kiersten White playing on the dramatic flair of literary vampires to make her own vampires something to laugh at. Exaggerating stereotypes or going the other way (a pimply jock rather than a handsome quarterback- even more motivated to stay popular) keeps the story fresh.
  • Deceiving looks. Nice guys finish last, so we never expect the bad guy to look like a nice guy. Make your villain ordinary until the crucial plot point that forces him to reveal himself. 
  • What is he saying? Truth or lies? Some villains always tell the truth and that's what's creepy about them. Others lie with finesse. 
  • How is he saying it? What is the tone and mood of his dialogue? Is he funny or frightening?
  • Assumptions he makes. How clever or thick is he? You can reveal much about your villain character through what he assumes.
  • To swear or not to swear. A villain who's in control will be more dignified and eloquent. One who is having a nervous breakdown will say all kinds of things without decorum.
The likable villain
  • a hero who took the wrong path
  • gray villains
  • they make people believe their goal is worthy
  • they have struggled with their decision
  • they care about something that's good

Choose your camera angle:
  • First person villain
  • From the POV of a victim (dark alley or shower horror scene)
  • From the POV of the hero
  • From the POV of a minion
Not the most cohesive notes ever, sorry! At a conference, much of the meat is what's said between the lines on the Power Point, but I hope these points have at least provoked thought. I know after attending this class, I came out with all kinds of ideas for making my villains deeper and closer to someone you might meet on the street. 

Happy writing! Buwahahaha!

p.s. If you haven't yet, enter my 1,000 followers twitter giveaway to win Goodnight Tweetheart by Teresa Medeiros!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Happy Days

Not the show, just the idea.
Picture from this site, which also explains some of the fun surrounding the farm
Today has been just such a happy day. Thanks to a bunch of great church people, my boys and I got to go to Underwood Family Farms this morning, and it was a blast.

They rode the ponies.
We learned that horses poop while they walk.

They gave me photo ops on the wooden train.

And, not pictured, they slid down from a humongous combine harvester with a revolving reel (thank you, tractor board book) into a cushion of sand multiple times. My little 1 1/2-year-old diving head first down that long slide was just an inspiring sight. He's fearless.

The turkey and peacocks yelled at us and we yelled back.

We spotted a goat climbing across the Underwood Family Farms sign way up high, which was also quite a sight.

We hung out in the chicken coop (roosters scare me, but my boys are totally cool with them).

We left the farm store with fresh strawberries, kettle corn, and (my favorite) honey sticks. Got home in perfect time for long, restful naps.

And then....

You know those times when one of your heroes does something to prove even more how awesome they are?

I found this:

Kiersten White singing her own original song about Math People and English People and how they should never date.

So it's been a great day for me. I hope you all are enjoying this day, rain or shine, as well.

Name one happy thing that's happened today and spread the cheer.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Story Idea Saturday! Universal Studios

So, two weeks ago my family got the chance to go to Disneyland for free, which was awesome! Today we get to go to Universal Studios for free, courtesy my husband's company. I'm hoping my kids will get to meet some of their favorite characters, like Shrek, Diego, and Curious George...

...which inspired today's Story Idea Saturday!

Grab your Word documents or notepad and start thinking, who would your main character meet (whether real or fictional) if given the chance? How would that meeting go down? Bill and Ted met Socrates. Doctor Who met Shakespeare and Charles Dickens. Walter from FRINGE met his rock 'n roll idol. So who would you or your main character meet?

Go forth and write. Have fun with it!

And have a great weekend!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Story Analysis Time: Pride, Prejudice, and Romance (my notes from Sarah Eden)

If you remember from my notes on Sarah Eden's All You Need is Love... and some other stuff presentation at LDStorymakers 2011, she names Three Things You Need in a Great Romance. Today I'll pass along my notes on how this actually applies to a famous and classic story: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

1) Emotional Connection

a) Between the characters -1st sight, intrigued but slightly turned off. Darcy watches her, getting to know Elizabeth, trying to figure out why he's so intrigued by her. Elizabeth reads THE LETTER, and realizes she's misjudged him. They both help out each other's loved ones.

b) Emotional connection to the reader -we see Elizabeth's love for her sister, her wit and resilience, her intelligence. She struggles with her difficult relations. We see her rally after emotional upheaval. The reader connects to her because she's real and we like her.

Darcy is harder because we don't get his perspective. Austen has other characters give insight into Darcy.

  • Bingley likes him, and trusts him implicitly
  • Georgiana's story tells us Darcy is kind and loyal
  • Generosity to Lydia and Wickham

2) Need Fulfillment

a) What Elizabeth needs in a soul mate:
  • Someone she can respect
  • Someone who is intelligent
  • Someone with money (very practical need)
  • Someone who is responsible and serious because she often is not
  • Someone loyal, unselfish, and good
b) What Darcy needs in a soul mate:
  • Someone who lightens him up, yet takes his responsibility seriously
  • Someone strong to challenge him
  • Someone who loves his sister
  • Someone who sees the real him

3) Uniquely Suited to Each Other

Darcy and Elizabeth are the only ones for each other because:
  • Everyone's intimidated by Darcy except Elizabeth. 
  • No one is as smart as Elizabeth except for Darcy.
  • Everyone is afraid of Lady Catherine but Elizabeth.
  • No one likes Elizabeth's wild family, but Darcy still takes care of them.
What do you think? Other things that make Darcy's and Elizabeth's relationship unique in literature or life? 

This discussion opened my eyes about my own characters, since my main guy is a bit Darcy-ish on some level. I hope it reaches you in the same way and helps you to define what's unique and special and necessary about the romance in your story, whether it's the entire plot line or just a blip in your epic fantasy. Enjoy writing the kissing scenes. :)

  • I'm over at Operation Awesome today talking about The Lonely Hero a la Dr. Who and passing along three giveaway links you won't want to miss (free books and critiques).

Thursday, June 2, 2011

1,000 Twitter Followers Thank You Contest

UPDATE: And the winner is THE GOLDEN EAGLE!! I'll email you to get your shipping addy so we can get this great book prize out to you. Thanks for celebrating with me.

This happened this week:

THANK YOU! And a special thank you to @ClaudiaC and @GoldenAgeofGeek for all the #WW (WriterWednesday) and #FF (FollowFriday) mentions. You're my twitter angels. :)

To say thanks for all your twiendship (some non-words should not be invented; I apologize), I'm giving away a copy of Goodnight Tweetheart by Teresa Medeiros, recently given a raving Afterglow review by Jen Daiker.

To enter, simply leave a comment with your (witty?) thoughts about twitter and make sure you're a follower, as this is a thank you contest specifically for you blog and twitter buddies. 

Thank you again! Looking forward to more fun and writerly sharing through our favorite social network sites. :)

Oh, and if you haven't found me on twitter yet, I'm just waiting for you to say hi.!/katrinalantznov